219 Articles


3 months Ago

iOS COVID-tracking and battery life

Published by marco on

Install the COVID app, they said.

It’s for the good of the nation, they said.

It won’t drain your battery, they said.


 COVID takes 60% just sitting there

The yellow color indicates that I had the phone in low-power mode.

The phone was on my desk all day long. I used it twice for 2FA. I looked at a few messages.

I’d last charged it sometime yesterday evening.

I wonder how much battery it needs when it’s actually doing something?


iOS still has a problem with “background activity”

Published by marco on

iOS has long had a setting that lets you decide whether “Background Refresh” is enabled. I have always had it disabled because I don’t need any of my apps doing things when I’m not using them. I’m more interested in my phone being there for me to look up something useful than I am in looking for a charger or carrying a power brick wherever I go.

This does not mean that apps are not doing things in the background, though. The article Background App Refresh Explained by David Johnson on Dec 6, 2019 (Techzillo) explains that the... [More]

4 months Ago

Thermal imaging is the next “facial recognition”

Published by marco on

In the aftermath of 9-11, biometrics and, in particular, bio-imaging software companies enjoyed a huge surge in valuation. Most of these products were shoddy and didn’t deliver on even a reasonable fraction of their promise.

That didn’t stop legislators from passing laws requiring their use—and probably getting giant kickbacks from companies newly flush with cash derived from their increased valuations caused, at least in part, by these same laws. Life is quite easy for some... [More]

5 months Ago

Contact-tracing and surveillance

Published by marco on

Contact tracing, or just “tracing”, is a way of determining who’s been infected with a contagious disease in a community. Compared to self-isolation en-masse, it’s a finer instrument: instead of everyone staying away from each other, properly trained workers trace the path of the disease, using this information to isolate the ill from the still-healthy.

How it works

When someone tests positive for a contagious disease, tracers interview them to find out where they’ve been and who they’ve... [More]

10 months Ago

Deleting GarageBand files

Published by marco on

In the Storage Manager[1] on MacOS, there are several categories on the left-hand side, each showing the amount of space used for that category. I noticed that, for whatever reason, I still had the GarageBand base files installed. I haven’t ever used this application, so I had no qualms about deleting these files to recover 2GB of space on my SSD.

When I clicked “Remove GarageBand Sound Library”, the system asked for administrator credentials.

I entered my credentials but the credentials prompt... [More]

1 year Ago

Multi-language web sites

Published by marco on

Why are multi-language web sites so hard to make? Even large companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple regularly send content with mixed-language content.

This is probably due to several factors:

  1. Large web sites pull data for myriad sources, including CDNs and caching services. Each source needs to respect the requested language, If a source doesn’t have support for a requested language, then just that piece of content will be delivered in the fallback format.
  2. Any proxies have to pass the... [More]

Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited

Published by marco on

The Amazon Kindle Paper White is a pretty good deal if you’re already dependent on Amazon Kindle content. Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime are largely crap content with the occasional gem. If you’re already getting content from elsewhere, you’ll continue to do so because almost none of the content worth having is included in either of these services.

Replacing an E-Reader

I recently had to replace my old Amazon Voyage because I left it on a train and was unable to get it back. I tried... [More]

2 years Ago

Spectre is here to stay: An analysis o..., Toon Verwaest (2019) (read in 2019)

Published by marco on

Disclaimer: these are notes I took while reading this book. They include citations I found interesting or enlightening or particularly well-written. In some cases, I’ve pointed out which of these applies to which citation; in others, I have not. Any benefit you gain from reading these notes is purely incidental to the purpose they serve in reminding me of what I once read. Please see Wikipedia for a summary if I’ve failed to provide one sufficient for your purposes. If my notes serve to trigger... [More]

Apple logins

Published by marco on

There are many places where you can authenticate on MacOS. I think the following list is comprehensive.

  • MacOS
  • App Store
  • Messages
  • FaceTime
  • iCloud
  • iTunes

Each of these logins can actually be different, believe it or not. Most of the time, they’re not, though. Apple prefers if you just use the same account for everything.

If you, for historical reasons—purely hypothetically, understand—have more than one account, you might log in with inconsistent accounts.

Normally, it doesn’t really... [More]

Has working on Linux Distros has gotten more rewarding?

Published by marco on

I saw in the news today that a new version of the Alpine Linux distro is available. It made me wonder whether those who work on distros like Alpine—that a few years ago would have been more rarely used—are excited at the uptake in usage for containers.

Working on open-source software has always had a bit of altruism bound up with it: if you don’t get compensated—most interpret this as remunerated—then why do it? There are a host of reasons to work on something, besides getting paid for... [More]

MacOS iCal and Reminders

Published by marco on

tl;dr: If your birthday-calendar appointments don’t show up on your MacOS iCal, try turning it off and on again (rebooting the machine). That’s what eventually worked for me. For the full story and more tips, read on.

A little while back, I enabled iCloud synchronization for my contacts. That didn’t go so smoothly on the first try: the MacOS desktop that had most of the information was actually erased because Apple doesn’t seem to understand what “sync” means.

Using a backup, I was able to... [More]

Skynet is the good outcome

Published by marco on

Will Artificial Intelligence take over the world? Only if we let it, I think.

And we’re almost certainly going to let it.

Our habit seems to be to capitulate to any form of power that dangles a short-term bauble of convenience before our greedy, beady eyes, even if it always seems to be just out of our grubby reach.

AI is dangerous less for what it is capable of doing now and more for how much power we concede it even when it’s stupefyingly shallow. We’ve given up before the battle has even... [More]

Poisonous Hyper-capitalism

Published by marco on

From Kai-Fu Lee’s new book says Artificial Intelligence will be Google vs China and will kill half the world’s jobs by Robert X. Cringely

“And I find it difficult to see China as being any more of a development crucible than is Sand Hill Road, where startups have even less time to succeed and therefore more pressure to evolve. Explain to me how this is incorrect, because the numbers are published and are real. In comparison to other adolescent startup cultures, yes China is and will be successful and they are... [More]”

iOS can’t get the easy stuff right

Published by marco on

This is a laundry list of issues I’ve had with iOS over the last half-year or so. Some things get fixed; others break. This operation system is in its 12th version and is 10 years old. It’s made by the richest company on the planet. It’s frustrating to watch the magical engine of capitalism and privatization be seemingly unable to get even the easy stuff right.

How is it that I’m the only one to whom this happens? iOS is supremely unreliable. I have an iPhone 6s with iOS 12.01 and a battery... [More]

SBB iOS App refreshes too much

Published by marco on

Here is the text of my bug report to the SBB for its iOS App. I wrote them in German, so I’ll let them stand that way; translations are in the footnotes.

Verbesserungsvorschlag im iOS-App


iOS 11.4.1, SBB Mobile 8.2.2 (10)

Use Case

Einen Benutzer will schon geladenen Streckeninformationen ohne Datenverbindung lesen.

Beobachtetes Verhalten

Der SBB-App aktualisiert immer wieder automatisch, auch wenn der App nur vor kurzem verlassen wurde (z.B. 10 Sekunden, wenn man auf einem... [More]

Windows 10 Search is not very good

Published by marco on

Windows Search has been unpredictable for a long time. If you’re a MacOS user, it feels terrible. It’s an utter mystery how Windows can’t seem to find anything, even in a small pile of startup icons and control-panel entries. It’s a database of a few hundred entries, at best. Let’s see how Windows 10 fares.

I finally took the time to document my struggles to run the “Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio”. There are so many words in there. Which ones can I type to find the icon? Hint: I... [More]

Why use Docker?

Published by marco on

Use Case

Let’s imagine we’re working on a PHP web site together, using PostgreSql as a database.

Without Docker

Without something like Docker, I’ll write a that tells you which PostgreSql to install (maybe latest, whatever), how to configure the Apache server (or Nginx, whatever) and make sure the document root, extensions, modules, etc. are all lined up for this project.

In order to write this readme, I had to set it up on my machine and carefully write down instructions matching... [More]

Apple iCal

Published by marco on

Apple iCal is another piece of software that’s in a very established field, with a very established feature set, in which Apple has been producing software for over a decade. It’s a calendar application with reminders. The reminders can be set to a specific time, with one or more alerts. An alert can be snoozed for a certain amount of time.

This is not rocket science.

Ok, so a modern calendar has to be able to pull in remote sources, to sync with other sources, and to send notifications. It... [More]

Human vs. machine categorization

Published by marco on

Humans are currently better at detecting patterns than machines—this may change in the near future.[1]

However, machines are massively better at sorting detected patterns than humans. Humans can’t stick to a regime.

For example, a site like Reddit amounts to a vast sorting algorithm with posts, pictures, videos and articles as input and the subreddits as buckets.

Myriad users upvote and downvote these items to determine whether an item belongs in a given subreddit. If an item in one subreddit... [More]

Hacking your Voice Mail

Published by marco on

tl;dr: If you don’t use your voice mail for your phone, then you should disable it. It is ridiculously insecure and can or will be used by hackers to gain access to other services you use (e.g. Whatsapp or PayPal).

On Sunrise, you can deactivate your voice mail by “calling” #145#. To re-activate, call *145#. You’ll get a confirmation message.

The CCC annual conference (Chaos Computer Club) took place last weekend, in Leipzig, Germany. There were several interesting talks, but this one stood... [More]

Why don’t I believe most of what I see online?

Published by marco on

It’s easy enough to make fake text and fake articles. Anyone can write something online. You can make up information out of whole cloth or you can subtly manipulate the so-called truth to slant it in a desired direction, either by omission or by emphasis or both.

Since many people read only the titles of articles, you don’t even need to try too hard to make well-substantiated and well-linked articles. Sure, somebody’s going to “debunk” your text. However, by then, your lie will have made its... [More]

Reserved filenames in Windows

Published by marco on

Did you know that there are some filenames you’re not allowed to use in Windows?

I knew that there are characters that you cannot use in a path, like : and ? and *, but I didn’t know that otherwise innocuous-looking names like aux.txt and con.txt are verboten.

I learned about this from the article It is 2018 and this error message is a mistake from 1974. This limitation, which is still found in the very latest Windows 10, dates back to […] by foone (Thread Reader), which has a pretty click-bait–y title and is quite... [More]

3 years Ago

The scandal of mining currency with energy we don’t have

Published by marco on

From the article New botnet infects cryptocurrency mining computers, replaces wallet address by Dan Goodin (Ars Technica)

“Records show that the attacker-controlled wallet has already cashed out slightly more than 1 Etherium coin.[1] The coin was valued at as much as $1,300 when the transaction was made. At the time this post was being prepared, the records also showed that the attacker had a current balance of slightly more than 1 Etherium coin and was actively mining more, with a calculation power of about 2,100 million... [More]”

MacOS System folder is huge

Published by marco on

I noticed that when I emptied the trash in High Sierra, I didn’t see a corresponding rise in available space in the status bar of open Finder windows.

I opened “About This Mac” to the “Storage” tab. Here I could see that my System was using 70GB.

 Huge system (not mine)

A search turned up the article macOS High Sierra – Huge System Storage (Apple Support), which explains that High Sierra introduced a feature called local backups for Time Machine (About Time Machine local snapshots (Apple)).

It does pretty much what you would expect it... [More]

Small Mac Notebooks, January 2018 Edition

Published by marco on

Use Cases

This evaluation is for a machine that is excellent at the following tasks:

  • Photo editing with Photos
  • Playing HD movies
  • Using Word processors like Pages and Word

The following tasks are not a priority:

  • Playing high-powered 3D games
  • Video editing


  • Must run MacOS[1]
  • Must be relatively quiet (fan noise only in extreme usage scenarios)
  • Long battery life (6+ hours)
  • Lightweight/portable/easy to store in most bags
  • Sturdy (doesn’t feel plastic-y or cheap)
  • High-quality... [More]

Bitcoin Explained (Video)

Published by marco on

Before[1] jumping on the Bitcoin bandwagon, you should acquaint yourself with how it works. I found the following video to be quite helpful.

Ever wonder how Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) actually work? by 3Blue1Brown (YouTube)

Another article, How bitcoins became worth $10,000 covers some of the same territory as the video, but also provides more of the history of Bitcoin as well as details about some of the current factions and infighting among the various communities and e-currency proponents.

“Bitcoin’s status as the default medium of exchange in the blockchain world pushes... [More]”

Blocking Trackers and Ads

Published by marco on

This is a public-service announcement. There are several ways of blocking trackers and ads on desktop browsers. I’ve been using Ghostery for years, but am a little leery of the company behind it. For a while now, my browser of choice, Opera[1], has included ad-blocking natively. I’d also heard about a tool from the EFF named Privacy Badger that is supposed to do what Ghostery does.

 I wanted to figure out which software I actually need to use in order to turn off tracking. To that end, the EFF... [More]

Extra Keyboards in Windows 10

Published by marco on

I’d recently started using Windows Remote Desktop (RDP) to connect to my desktop at work from my laptop. The advantages are many: My nearly 4-year-old laptop no longer has to groan under the strain of running Visual Studio with 150 projects open. It was working very well, actually, but drained the battery considerably faster than I’d like. The battery lasts longer and the CPU no longer runs so hot, making it a viable laptop again. Hat tip to Björn for telling me to give it a go.

Unfortunately,... [More]

Y U No Use Firefox?

Published by marco on

Every once in a while, I feel bad for not using the only remaining truly open-source browser: Firefox.[1]

Opera is my go-to browser, but that’s been bought up by the Chinese, right? So far, things haven’t changed but who knows what’s going on under the hood? Chrome is a decent testing browser, but offers me nothing better than Opera and its memory profile is, for whatever reason, consistently worse. I’m a very happy Opera user.

Still, Firefox is, in version 57, supposedly much faster and uses... [More]

4 years Ago

The annotation web standard

Published by marco on

The Web Annotation Working Group has published [t]hree recommendations to enable annotations on the web.

What does that mean for you, as a consumer of the Internet?

This standard will bring commenting and conversation and annotation into the 21st century. It will possibly bring order to the myriad systems and accounts and formats currently in place that allow for interaction and discussion.

The diagram Web Annotation Architecture (W3C) (SVG) is interactive and steps you through the whole concept.... [More]